A feminist perspective about the feminist perspective

Month: June, 2012

Keep it Real!

Welcome to the Keep it Real challenge, a 3 day rally on the internet to ask magazines to put non-photoshopped pictures in their issues.  This is the second day, where people are encouraged to talk about the price we pay for allowing unreachable expectations in beauty.

I’d like to say that I’m above being manipulated by pictures of celebrities.  We don’t watch TV in our house very often, and when we do it’s mostly cartoons.  I don’t read magazines, sans Mother Jones.  I don’t even go to that many movies, maybe two a year.  And yet I still see this model form.  This picture of what we consider perfection.  And I’m constantly ashamed of my body, no matter how gaunt I end up looking.

I don’t think we understand how pervasive this phenomenon is.  How many celebrities are anorexic?  When even the celebrities we admire for their thinness don’t have the self esteem to be proud of their bodies, we’ve gone too far.  I believe it’s the shaming.  When celebrities gain weight, the magazines immediately send word.  And then the rest of us feel that we should be ashamed as well for gaining any weight, no matter how little.  No one can compete with the humiliation machine.

I wish I could say that it would be great if magazines would stop photoshopping.  Unfortunately, it won’t solve the problem.  Our society is too intent on shaming itself, and we almost thrive on it.  It feels satisfying to some that a celebrity isn’t the perfect form, because it somehow pulls them down to our level.  We hate them, we love them, we want to be like them, so we drag them through the mud for being what no one actually is.  And then we end up hating ourselves.

So, we could all keep it real if we would just get off each other’s backs about our looks.  We don’t need shame to be motivated to stay healthy and happy!  Bodies worth admiring have mouths that speak kindly, eyes that don’t judge, and hands that don’t backstab.


No Closet Shame

There are a lot of perks to being a feminist.  I may talk a lot about the social downfalls to being that independent person with volatile opinions, but life becomes more vibrant once you shed your shame.  You’re already being called names for your cause, accused of terrible acts against humanity and democracy, why not have fun with it?

I spend a great deal of time on my outfits, consequently.  I love trying out new styles and surprising people with my tastes.  People who know me have gotten used to my eccentricities. but I consider it a good day when someone either shakes their head or smirks at my clothes.  My go-go dress from the sixties goes great with my striped stockings and Fergie polka-dot platforms.  And yeah, I’ll rock to Madonna and Cher in my spaghetti strap shirt, peasant skirt and gold chain belt.  Because I don’t need the approval of other people anymore.  I dance by myself in crowds because I’m more into a song than other people, twirling my pearls to the beat.  And no, I can’t actually dance.  But tell that to my happy hips.

I also find this helps me shed my gender approved clothing stereotypes.  Wearing a tie to an interview would not bother me in the least, because I’ve spent a great deal of time pushing my personality past my clothes.  Shame does not come into the equation, so they can’t doubt my capability to work outside of the mundane.  Feminism has truly given me another level of style to work with.  And I am happiest when I’m in my own clothes, like my own skin, showing the world who I really am.  My pride is on my bell-sleeve!

Both the Damsel and the Hero

I have a lot of contradictions in my head.  One of the contradictions that bothers me the most is the damsel in distress trope.  I’m aggravated when I realize that a women is going to be saved in a movie by a man, but at the same time, my  heart flutters when, spurred by his sudden realization of love, the hero bursts through the door to rescue her, sweeps her into his arms, and kisses her passionately as the evil withers on the ground, foiled by its own greed.

The feminist blood in me boils at my own betrayal.  How could I possibly quiver with desire at the idea of being rescued by a man?  The anthropologist in me, however, understands that there is an underlying cause and that I should look at the culture I was raised in to fully comprehend my desires.  I know that we are enculturated as women to want a man who is strong and capable of solving all of our problems.  We’re meant to marry and stay at home, perfectly content that the man has to contend with the world, dark and scary as it is.

But we women, no matter what we do with our lives, are always handling the world and its problems.  They come to our door, endanger our families, and we are the shields that block out everything despite how much money we make at it, if any at all.  And I think that sometimes we just want to be taken care of, to be swept off our feet and told that we don’t have to worry about that anymore.  It’s that secret desire to just lift our heavy burden off of us and hand it over, to live happily ever after as the evil is dispatched by someone else.

That’s the fantasy.  And we know its a fantasy.  I know its a fantasy.  And yet my heart screamed for it so loudly a few years ago.  I was embroiled in a relationship that was abusive.  I was trapped.  There were so many people around me that I just wanted to take me out of the situation, save me.  So many opportunities for cameos from other men.

But in the end, I cut the ropes myself.  I sat in that room alone with the man who had hit me, burned me, imprisoned me, raped me, forced me to have a miscarriage, and I said that I wouldn’t do it anymore.  I stared blankly as he cried, as he promised to be better, to never hurt me again.  And I said no, and I left.

It’s not to say I didn’t have supporters in my life.  My current husband was my rock at the time.  He and my friends encouraged me and offered places to stay.  But I had to face the evil alone.  I couldn’t be swept off my feet by another man.  I had to handle my world and protect myself.

You might wonder how I came to have that kind of courage.  Well, I didn’t.  I didn’t have that courage when I went.  I apologized profusely to him and his family for leaving, despite what he had done.  For some reason, even in the end, it was my fault that all of this had happened.  But I didn’t do it for me.  I did it for that baby.

No, I never saw my baby.  But I had visions of her even as I cramped over, devastated from the blow to my stomach.  She was so very real to me.  And I swore that I wouldn’t let him destroy another piece of me.  It still took weeks from me to finally leave, but I didn’t let him have another piece.

The fantasy of being rescued never happened for me.  I wished for it, over and over again.  I saw it in movies and shivered from the thrill.  I still do.  There’s something fantastic about the idea of giving over responsibility and still being rewarded for it.  But we have to count on our own strength in the end to make life worth living.  We have to obtain our own rewards and grow to be our own hero.  After all, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the door get smashed in, and seeing yourself on the other side.

An Egotistical Thank You Card to the Feminists in my Life

I’m going to bare my soul here for a second.

I’m egotistical.

I want to be that one person that revolutionizes the cause and solves the crisis that is women’s suffering.  I want people to look at me and say, “Oh my god, why didn’t we think of that?”

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t why I got into this cause.  I really, truly want to help people.  But after each blog post, my fingers get tingly and I think, “This is it.  In the morning Ms. Magazine is going to call me to write for them and then I’m going to meet the president.”

It’s best not to ask about the leap in logic.  My daydreams always end with me meeting the president.  He clearly wants to hear from the girl in Indiana with a free blog space and (almost) two degrees.

However, I’m always sickened by the amount of daydreaming I put into just thinking about how awesome I’m going to be someday.  Feminists do not become famous all on their own.  We live in groups.  We support each other and work day and night on project after project.  The feminists who become famous have hundreds of other feminists backing them with determination and dedication.  They’ve also worked for years fighting several battles at once.  I’ve just started and I think I should be the next keynote speaker at any function, and that’s just wrong.

I know so many feminists who work everyday just to keep us moving.  They don’t ask for recognition or reward.  They simply keep going because they know that the cause is what is most important.  They live for the cause.  They warm my heart with their dedication, and some days their motivation is all that keeps me going in the feminist movement.  I owe them a great deal of gratitude.

So, thank you to the feminists who are up right now, working into the early morning hours to further our cause because you don’t have time what with the family and work.  Thank you to the people who work behind the scenes at every event, to the volunteers who train quickly to do their job, to the women’s health center’s nurses and secretaries who could be making so much more money with the skills that they have.  I am in awe of you.  I may not be humble, but I know greatness when I see it, and you are all just fantastic.

Censoring Begets Failure: Our Reps Need a Health Course

(Warning: This blog post uses medically accurate but possibly offensive words.  Please do not read on if you might be squeamish toward female body parts.)

I’ve been engrossed in the daily ups and downs that is the legislative and electoral season.  The North Dakota bill was fortunately shot down, as measure 3 would have effectively made it okay to abuse children and marry them at any age.  The Michigan anti-abortion bill passed through the House in a hurry, but has yet to make it to the Senate.  It will supposedly go to them sometime in September.

I was slightly sickened that my faith was restored by the fact that measure 3 didn’t pass.  I really expected something that horrific to just make it through.  We’ve had a lot of challenges this year, and I had given up on any victories.  However, it is the way of the feminist lifestyle to just get back up and brush ourselves off.  Don’t let them see you down.

It has been my experience that when the other side sees that you took a loss hard, they believe that they were in the moral right for gaining their victory.  I understand that.  I have always believed that people will stand by their convictions no matter what, and that they feel they need the victory just as much as you do.  Normal people do not try to do evil acts.  Normal people just fear losing control of their moral convictions in the place they live.

However, I would like to believe that we can have intelligent adult conversations when deciding on measures and bills.  And today I had a visceral reaction to the news that a woman was kicked out of testimony against an anti-abortion bill because she used the word “vagina”.  She was considered disrespectful of the proceedings, and could not finish her argument.  Not that pro-lifers haven’t tried to get pro-choicers kicked out before for trivial things, but that decision should have been overthrown.

How many discussions have we missed because people are squeamish about their bodies?  How are we supposed to stop the travesties that are happening in the word when we can’t talk about the body parts being destroyed and violated?  It makes me think that the reason sex trafficking is so bad is because the higher ups don’t want to hear the word “sex” over and over again.

I’m disgusted that Americans have been so coddled that they can’t discuss anything in a mature manner.  What kind of people are we leaving our lives to?  How do we expect women’s rights to be protected when the people who talk about it are old men who shudder at the idea of vaginas and laugh at the idea of penises?  We’ve protected ourselves so much from talk about sex, making it seem dirty and inappropriate when it is really a beautiful and empowering act, and because of this we are unable to save the people who are truly in trouble.

Natural human acts are being twisted.  Our leaders are refusing to think about where the ultrasound probes go.  We are being denied our rights to use words.

Maturity is being able to admit that a great deal of what this season has been about has been control of body parts.  Uterus, cervix, vagina.  These are not dirty words.  We are not dirty humans.  And we should demand our rights to be open about the issues.

Breaking the Rules on Conversations

When I was in middle school, I remember being told to never speak about certain topics in social settings.  As I grew older, I managed to avoid these topics at all costs.  Now that my life has changed, I can reevaluate why I was taught these rules, and whether or not they were sound.

1. Never ask someone if they are Republican or Democrat

As I said in my post “Relabeling a Cause”, there are many reasons for not asking this question.  These words have a lot of values attributed to them, and when someone is identified in such a way, we make assumptions about them before we really get to know them.  While I still agree with the premise, I feel like there is no real way to know a person without understanding these almost basic things about them.  Close friends should know these things.  “Do you really feel that way about gay marriage/poor people/religion?  You want to stand with a group that believes that?”

I believe this rule also reaches to asking someone whether they are part of other groups.  I have never asked someone directly if they were a feminist, because it was all at once asking how someone feels about nearly everything.  These things are found out naturally, and need to be resolved between two people before they can become close.  Are you okay with your friend being this way?  If yes, great.  You can have many awesome discussions.  However… if you know that they feel a certain way about a topic that you feel strongly about, and you don’t agree with them, your relationship will eventually fall apart.  And that’s the sad part.  Friends you used to be close to are suddenly abrasive toward you.  They touched on some core part of you that you can’t resolve with them.  How can you look at them the same way, hang out without thinking about how they are?

On the other hand, not asking them if they are Republican/Democrat/Feminist/Gay/Straight means that you aren’t comfortable with them and never will be.  Find your values, and find your real friends.

2. Never talk about abortion

I never understood this question in middle school, mostly because when they said to never talk about it, they meant that we should never ask what it was.  Now that I understand what abortion is, I can safely say this another topic that will come up between people who are truly comfortable with each other.  It’s also a topic that is splashed over every election, so opinion will come whether we want it or not.

However, I have a serious issue with this rule.  My first assumption about this rule was that someone else had already decided what it was and what needed to be done about it, so there was no reason for me to involve myself.  When I grew older, I saw what ramifications staying silent had.  Women are suffering in silence everyday because no one wants to talk about the difficult topics.  I suppose this is one of the reasons that feminists are considered rude or mean, because they put the blunt topic out in the open and force people to face what is happening.

This is one of my weak points.  I hate being impolite, and because this rule is in my head, I can barely tolerate speaking about it with other people.  I do have my opinions though.  I know how I feel about abortion.  Yet I refuse to break the silence with the people around me.  I am working against my own fear constantly.  I wonder if this is true for other women.  Are we trained to stay quiet and pleasant at all times, and therefore can’t stand the idea of speaking out?    We have voices and opinions, but can’t seem to bring ourselves to talk about what is really happening.  All conversations can’t be superficial and pleasant.  We have to go against our own training and upbringing if we want to create real change.

I will reject this rule in my own life.  Loosen my tongue!

3. Never talk about politics

This was put separately to the students from the first rule.  It’s a different rule in many aspects, but it comes down to the same conclusion.  My teachers didn’t want the students to involve themselves in unpleasant conversations and pry into the personal lives of other people, especially ones that we had just met.  I understand where their fears lie, and yet I spend a great deal of my life talking about politics now.  My husband’s family helped me a great deal with this, because from the first day I met them they were talking about politics.  They tried for awhile to censor themselves for my sake, and for that I am a bit sorry.  I had been thrown into a situation I was unaware actually happened, and I couldn’t respond for a long time.  But now I see the positive aspects of talking about politics, and it is nearly the same as talking about abortion.  We need to have these discussions to create change and to spread information.  It may not be pleasant to talk about the women dying throughout the world due to poor healthcare and abusive religious rules, but people need to know.

I’m not as pleasant as I used to be, and I understand that.  These rules have been broken time and again, and I’ve angered many people with my opinions and actions.  But I still stand by my values.  If you stay silent about certain things that you value and understand, you forsake yourself and take your own power away.

Eventually, you won’t be able to deny what you think.  Eventually, you will not be polite.  And I applaud you for that.  Wield your power and values.  They make you, you.  Be real, and your relationships will become more real, deeper, and closer.  Life gets easier when you don’t deny what you believe.

The Feminist Movement… Seriously, We Just Keep Moving

Recently, the Paycheck Fairness Act was blocked by the GOP.  For those of you who don’t know what this act is, it was supposed to be “A bill to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, and for other purposes.” (http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/s3220)  I thought I should take this time to discuss an important element of the feminist lifestyle:  Feminists are not crushed by their setbacks.  It might be because there are so many setbacks that we became used to it.  We might just be fueled by our outrage that something as simple as equal pay is being blocked.  Either way, once we’re in… once we see what state the world is in, and how many women are suffering… we can no longer close our eyes to the pain.  We can no longer close our mouths when we are told to stay quiet.  We can no longer stand idly by as the women around us are being destroyed.

Feminists have been called stubborn, and for good reason.  We are constantly acting toward our goal, and feminism as a whole demands that we never be passive.  The feminists of the world are multi-taskers, building up skills that our title asks of us.  We have to learn how to write, debate, speak up, support, be witty and creative, and lead.  In any group of feminists, there are few followers.  We stand up when we have to because we’ve already stood up against so many others who fear feminists and their lifestyles.

Sometimes, feminism seems like too much to handle.  The entire world is in dire need of help and answers, and we don’t have near the amount of resources it would take to solve any major problem.  We listen as the stories pour in from everywhere, bashing us with the reality that at this very moment, something terrifying is happening to a woman or a child.  Each moment we spend is precious time toward any goal that we might have.  We can’t back down because we’re already losing ground in the everyday battle.  We say we’re fighting for equal rights, but sometimes I doubt it.  Sometimes I feel like we’re fighting just not to be one of those horror stories in the news.  Fighting to be treated well enough that we won’t be subjugated entirely.  I fear for women.  And that’s why I keep going.  That’s why any feminist keeps going.  Because she’s scared of what might happen.  What is happening.  What would happen if we stopped fighting.  Call it stubborn, call it determined, call it passionate.  I just call it my life.

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